I was working on that story I have in the Scrivener writing program and got stuck. I took a nap and realized I was stuck because I needed to put something in, so I added this.
Young Salali has run away from home and lingers in the market, wondering how she’ll live out in the world. She watches a group of women make fun of the bits and bobs of a trinket seller.
Mock Me At Your Leisure
excerpt by Marian Allen
The old woman sat upon a stool, the hem of her long gown pooling in the dust, one hand resting on a blackthorn cane and the other carrying a pipe to and from her mouth. Her skin was white but warm, like polished ivory, black-red hair straggled from beneath a black and white turban, and her eyes — a sharp green-blue Salali had never seen before — seemed to take in everything while looking at nothing in particular.
“I’m glad you enjoy my handwork,” she told the women, “but your pleasure buys me no bread. Choose something, pay me now, and mock me at your leisure.”
When the women had bought and exchanged tokens and had moved on, the old woman puffed at her pipe and fixed Salali with a direct gaze.
“Ten silver coins,” she said.
Salali flushed. The old woman had discerned her status and was challenging and insulting her by quoting an exorbitant price.
“There’s nothing here I need or want,” she said, stiffly.
“There’s all of it.”
She stopped in the act of turning away.
“What did you say?”
“I’m tired of this,” the old woman said. “You want it. For ten silver coins, you take all I’ve made and all my makings. It would tuck into that burden you already carry. You’d never feel the weight. And you’d be glad of it, by and by.”
The old woman rolled up the pack, concealing the “treasures” it held. She opened another wide enough for Salali to see inside. “Beads. Feathers. Stones. Ribbons. Wire of copper and silver. And these.” She drew forth a pair of scissors, the obsidian blades black and translucent, the handles polished wood — naturally white or bleached to whiteness — with tiny figures of tigers carved on them.
“The White Tiger is unknown in Layounna,” the old woman said. Salali didn’t bother to ask how she knew Layounna was her destination. “In Layounna, they talk of Unicorn, instead.” She opened the scissors and snapped them shut, then shoved them toward an invisible target. “One bites and one thrusts. These do both.”
“I have scissors.”
“Give them to me. It’s part of my price.”
“Mine are sharp and strong.”
“These will cut anything that needs to be cut.”
When Salali hesitated, the old woman shrugged. “Find your livelihood another way, then, and I’ll keep this one.”
In the face of this disinterest, Salali felt robbed. Those trinkets, those makings and findings, that pack, and those scissors were hers! She dug out the small, serviceable pair she carried in her sewing kit and handed them over.
The old woman stuck them in a pocket without even looking at them, folded the display pack into the “makings” one and stood to stuff it into the carryall Salali bore. “There,” she said. “Be free.”
I plan to include this in a short story collection set in the universe of my fantasy trilogy, SAGE, which is all about discomfort and wonder. Click here to connect to samples from all three books of the trilogy.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write about scissors.
Holly JahangiriAugust 14, 2016 at 3:50pm
Oooh, now I want those scissors! Lovely! An intriguing excerpt. I’d love to read more.
Marian AllenAugust 14, 2016 at 4:16pm
I’m a-workin’ on it!
JaneAugust 15, 2016 at 9:44am
Nice. Interesting. More!
Marian AllenAugust 15, 2016 at 11:11am
Thank you! I’m busy now doing two things at once: finishing the story, and trimming off the stuff I had to babble in order to get to the story.
Stephanie JamesAugust 18, 2016 at 10:33am
Oh my! You are marvelous! This got me hanging in a good way! I’m drawn to the woman who said the title “Mock Me at Your Leisure”, I can’t picture out how this would turn out. Nice literary work!! very nice!
Marian AllenAugust 18, 2016 at 10:36am
Thanks, Stephanie! That woman is a major character in my fantasy novel, SAGE. 🙂